This past week I have been working on my presentation and report. I have also been helping Sweta (an intern from Mumbai) with her project on menstrual health and sexual education. I have been doing her data entry in SPSS and looking at basic analysis of the data. So far some findings are: none of the girls use sanitary napkins but all said they would if they were cheaper; none of the girls knew about contraception or HIV/AIDS even if they were married; most only change their cloth once a day in the morning; they think the appropriate age for marriage is about 18 and 22 to have kids.
The most surprising fact was that there is no woman doctor in any of the areas Setco serves, so girls are never checked out when they have STDs or other infections. When Sweta found this out she told Salmaben (head here in the local office) that there was a need for a female doctor in the villages. The next day Salmaben went to the local doctor and hired someone to go to the villages once a week. I think that is so amazing! (Although things don’t usually happen that fast here. I feel like more time is spent planning and reporting than implementing.) After Salmaben figured out the doctor situation, Sweta went to talk to the girls as an informal focus group discussion to find out their needs and how often the doctor should come. What was unanimous was the fact that they all wanted a female doctor.
I find it very interesting how Setco involves the community to spread awareness of new programs. First off the health workers in the villages told all the girls to come to the anganwadi and then Sweta told all the girls about the doctor and her workshops that she will be holding. Now their hope is that these things will spread by word of mouth to the rest of the community.
I have witnessed how much work it is to implement programs in communities like the ones Setco works with. It is necessary to be in the field to understand the needs of a community. Things that sounds simple like scheduling are very hard to coordinate between families, school, and times girls can leave the house. The organization has to be careful with what they teach and tell the girls so as to prevent parents from not allowing their girls to keep attending sessions. The one thing that Setco has easy is funding. They get 5% of the profits from Setco automotive. But it’s one thing to have the money and it’s another thing to know where to spend it and how to implement effective programs. It’s also difficult to do everything with only four staff members. I have also learned how hard it is to make a dent in women’s rights and women’s empowerment. Despite the trainings, no change in say in decision making, financial autonomy, social networks, or quality of life were made. It’s ultimately societal norms that need to change before any women can make these changes, even if women are taught skills and how to implement them in a business. Even if women have a graduate degree, when they are married their fate is up to their parents-in-law, who have the power to stop them from doing everything they started. It’s a slow process and I am super impressed by the people who dedicate their lives to making this slow change happen.
I am most surprised about how independent my internship was. I had my project, followed my schedule, and worked on it every day. I almost feel like a contractor hired to conduct this study, write a report and leave. I loved it because it gave me enough time to do everything that needed to be done but in a way I wish I could have helped my colleagues more with their work. However, I feel extremely lucky to have found this non-profit that not only allowed me to conduct research on my own, but also provided me with staff to help me get it done! The best part was that I was able to experience every part of conducting research. I did a lit review, created a questionnaire, conducted interviews, entered all my data, analyzed my data, wrote a report, and did a final presentation! Hopefully my research will give Setco a good understanding of the empowerment of women in the community, the effects and lack of effects of their programs, and project ideas for the future. Overall it has been an amazing learning experience.
I leave tonight to Mumbai! I present to Urja and the entire office tonight (I am pretty nervous..) I will be staying with Nikita in Mumbai for five days, so I will get the chance to continue exploring India! Then I am also traveling to New Delhi, Agra, and Varanasi.
I have decided that I have a passion for research. I find things like SPSS fascinating. I am so lucky to have found this NGO to work for and for the fellowship! Research is so important. It is used to establish the needs of a community and demonstrate if programs are effective. You never stop learning new things. The more questions you ask the more you learn. It’s amazing. And this experience was a wonderful way for me to discover my passion for research while being in a community and with people that I love!